Thursday, 28 August 2003

Saving Private Lynch, Iraq War Conspiracy?

A friend of mine sent me an article from Salon, in which the Pentagon is accused of staging the whole Jessica Lynch rescue in order to create a wonderful bit of PR and psy ops.

I've dug into this a bit, and a variety of respectable players in the Blogosphere, such as Andrew Sullivan and instapundit are questioning the America-Staged-The-Whole-Thing story.

The whole thing began with a BBC story, which states that the rescue effort was a complete sham, staged for propaganda benefit, and that the soldiers involved were shooting blanks and pyrotechnics to make the whole production more dramatic. The author of this story, John Kampfner, later told CNN in an interview that while he questions the Pentagon's spin on the story, he did NOT believe that the event was staged. To me, however, the above-referenced BBC article sure sounds like that's what he was saying.

Then came a column in the LATimes by Robert Scheer, a journalist whose motivation and diligence are dubious. This was followed by the piece at cited above.

The Pentagon denied that the rescue had been staged. The Pentagon also clarified that it never claimed to have exchanged fire while inside the hospital, although Brig. Gen Brooks said that the US forces had engaged in firefights getting into and out of the hospital.

Lastly, my own little bit of personal experience. The M-16 infantry rifle jams up when using blanks. I noticed this while on a field exercise in ROTC out in Arizona. This happened to the other cadets as well, and our platoon sergeant, a Gulf War I veteran, told us that he thought using blanks for exercises was pointless, since the blanks always jam, and therefore the "realism" of a combat situation isn't there. Therefore, I have a hard time believing that the SEALS et al went in firing blanks. Perhaps they were firing live rounds in the air to make noise, or to shoot at real enemies, I don't know, but I seriously doubt they were using blanks, as the BBC claims.

In conclusion, the BBC has backed away from its contention that the rescue was staged, although certain ideologically driven elements of the American media want to believe that it was, so they keep repeating it, much like the "Al Gore claims he invented the Internet" story. Did the Pentagon spin the story? I would expect as much. Psy ops are an important part of any war. If you are familiar with the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in 1942 or if you have ever seen the movie "Enemy at the Gates," then you know what I'm taking about. Did the SEALS need to go in guns blazing? Had the Iraqi military pulled out prior to the rescue? Unclear. Given the uncertainty of war, it was not unreasonable to mount a forceful rescue effort. Better to have to much force than not enough. Are there journalists who rely on spin, innuendoes and sloppy reporting to make an ideological point? Yup.

Sunday, 17 August 2003

Islamic terrorists won't respect the Russian's neutrality in the Iraq war

Article in Izvestia by Nikolai Zlobin, Director of Russian and Asian programs for the Center for Defense Information

Mr Zlobin believes that much of the discord between Europe and America arises from a difference in outlook concerning Islamic terrorism. Where the Europeans see al-Qaeda as something between organized crime and "local" terrorist movements like the IRA or Hamas, the US sees terrorism as another "-ism" akin to communism or fascism, which must be fought on a global scale to defend civilization itself from the ideological nihilism of al-Qaeda. He chides President Putin for siding with the Europeans, and further notes that America exerted great effort to liberate and defend these same European countries from earlier "-isms."

He ended the article by warning President Putin that Islamic terrorists won't respect the Russian's neutrality in the Iraq war. Given that Rusians have had their own trouble with Chechen terrorists, I can only assume that President Putin doesn't see a connection between Iraq and terrorism. I can't believe that Russia would willingly choose to obstruct the hunt for terrorists. Of course, it is also very possible that the Russians sat out of the Iraq war because Iraq was a client state in hock to Russia for billions.

Friday, 15 August 2003

The war in Iraq as divided Europe into two camps

The author, Aleksander Dugin, Chairman of the political party "Eurasia," writes that the war in Iraq as divided Europe into two camps divided by philosophy and outlook. On the one side we have England and large parts of Southern and Eastern Europe: Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, the Baltics. On the other side we have France, Germany, Belgium. So far, so good, this is fairly obvious.

However, Mr. Dugin labels the former bloc that of Modernization, and the latter bloc that of Conservatism. Certain aspects of Franco-German foreign policy could be called conservative, particularly the desire to preserve the recent geopolitical past, in which these countries had some influence. However, if we take the French and Germans at their word, that their foreign policy is not primarily motivated by anti-Americanism (although this is a large factor), then we see that their foreign policy is not motivated by conservatism at all, assuming we define conservatism as "favoring traditional views and values," as defined in the American Heritage Dictionary. Traditional views and values would certainly include the belief that war is at times necessary, at times when avoiding war can actually lead to significantly greater harm than that caused by war itself. Similarly, France and Germany are abandoning their traditional NATO allies America and Great Britain.

The worldview that they are advancing is quite radical: that the legalistic and administrative means for resolving disputes in Western Europe for the last generation can be made to work everywhere else. While I am glad that Europe has managed to avoid a large-scale shooting war for fifty-plus years by integrating and promoting multi-lateral treaties, especially given Europe's violent history, we would be wrong to assume that the rest of the world would submit to such a system. For this reason, we conclude that the Anglo-American worldview is in fact the conservative one, since it holds that the world still contains rogue regimes and dangerous non-state players like al-Qaeda, groups which will not submit to treaties, laws, courts and bureaucracies. According to the Anglo-American view, such nations and groups will only respond to the old-fashioned use of force, a conservative principle if ever there was one.

And a proven one, too, to look at recent history. The atrocities in Bosnia and Kosovo, on Europe's doorstep, were stopped not by sanctions and treaties or UN resolutions, although there was no shortage of those (CLICK HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE), but by American-led military forces. Similarly, sanctions and UN resolutions (too many to link to) did not deter Iraq from expelling UN weapons inspectors, and these inspectors were readmitted to Iraq only when it was made clear to Saddam Hussein that denying entrance to the inspectors would result in attack by the US military. North Korea has proven itself immune to sanctions, preferring to pursue its dreams of nuclear glory while starving its own people. Lastly, I mention Rwanda. The US did not intervene militarily there, and as a result, millions of Tutsis were slaughtered while the UN tut-tutted and made resolutions.

I find it quite telling that countries which have recent experience with oppression and evil were more likely to support the Anglo-US actions than those who have been comfortable for a few generations. Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and the Baltic states, all former victims of the Soviet Union, were among our staunchest allies. Rwanda also supported our efforts. Those who most stridently opposed us were some of the countries we defended for 50+ years while they enjoyed the comforts of peace and prosperity: France, Germany, Belgium. From this I must conclude that our "opponents" are not in fact conservative, as Mr. Dugin suggests, but the most dangerous form of radical Utopians who have forgotten how the world outside of the safe havens of American-led NATO really works.

Tuesday, 12 August 2003

Iraq the New Way of War

The folks at Izvestia speculate that the Coalition victory in Iraq did not so much demonstrate a "New Way of War," made possible by precision guided munitions and real-time command and control, so much as use of a very old trick, that of buying out the leadership. This article suggested that the US cut a deal with Saddam Hussein such that he and his buddies could get out of the country alive if he agreed to arrange it so that the Iraqi military fell apart quickly. The majority of the captured leaders from the most-wanted deck have been sixes and eights, not face cards, and certainly not the old Ace of Spades himself. The authors also suggest that a similar deal was made with bin Laden.

A very intresting theory, but I doubt it's true. Why wouldn't Saddam Hussein accept a deal before the war started? Surely there were very attractive offers on the table during the 48 hour countdown, why risk getting killed in an actual war just to save face. He could have accepted exile someplace and the set about frittering away his stockpile of plundered cash on beer and hookers. I can't believe he cut a deal to spare Iraq a real battle. He could have easily spared them all combat by accepting a pre-war deal. Not to mention, Saddam Hussein clearly didn't give a rat's ass about his people.

Bin Laden was clearly in it for the glory, which would be tarnished if word got it he was in cahoots with Bush. I think he really expected the US to quit and go home after a handful of US casualties. They underestimated the American resolve. Al-Qaeda was hoping for Mogadishu 1993, instead they got Berlin 1945.

So why does this matter to the Russians? A Washington Post editorial on 5/2 suggests that President Putin is encountering difficulties in his attempts to reform the Russian military. Perhaps many Russians don't want to believe that the US military is capable of destroying Iraq's military in three weeks, while the Russians have been trying to subdue Chechnya for almost ten years. If the American victories can be explained away by dirty-dealing, then the Russians don't look so bad by comparison.